Steven McNicholas
Cast members wield sticks and a variety of other props in "Stomp."

The beats in the percussion extravaganza "Stomp" can't stop even if someone in the cast breaks a broomstick, a chair or plunger.

That's why Sam Weaver's job is so important.

Weaver is the prop master for the "Stomp" tour, making sure he has plenty of broomsticks, broomheads, plungers, big drumsticks, little drumsticks, trash can lids, trash cans, reinforced fold-up chairs, spare shoes and safety pins for each performance.

"You never know when something is going to happen," Weaver said from South Carolina. "Cast members need to be able to look off stage through the wings and know we have them covered if something breaks."

But it isn't easy keeping everything ready — and it's not because the cast break things once a week.

"We go through 30 brooms about every six or seven days," Weaver said. "But that isn't the challenge." The challenge lies in the fact that all the props are made in England. "Stomp" originated in England and the props have certain specifications.

"So, about once a year, we have a ton of equipment and props sent from England to New York," Weaver said. "We store the stuff in New York. When we go on the road, we grab a bunch of the props for the tour. We really load ourselves up and keep an eye on the inventory. When things, such as plungers, start getting low, we call or e-mail the offices in New York and have them send more props to the next venue ..." When they arrive, he unloads the props and gets them ready for the show.

Everything from electrical tape to boot laces and safety pins are just as much a part of the props as the drumsticks, said Weaver, who has been with the show since 1995.

"We don't have much of a costume department. So, when someone buys a shirt they want to perform in and don't like the sleeves, they come to me and I pull out the scissors and safety pins."

Sometimes, Weaver said, getting ready is a "logistical Rubik's Cube."

"There's a method we fall into when it comes to setting up the show," he said. "And what's more, we have to be ready for anything — especially when the cast starts improvising."

Improvisations during a "Stomp" show are nothing new. In fact, it happens more than the audience realizes, Weaver said.

"The whole show was based on improvisation," he said. "And the casts keep the spirit alive by some strange things."

There are times when a cast member walks from the wings during a performance and steals a prop.

"It's like, 'OK, what are you going to do now?' And I need to be ready for the guy who was on stage to come to me and grab whatever he wants to finish his routine," Weaver said.

One night a chair broke. "It was the craziest thing," Weaver said. "There was a moment in the show when everyone was on stage, sitting in a line of chairs, getting into the rhythm, and the chair in the middle collapsed. It looked like it was part of the show, but it wasn't. And what was strange about it was the fact that every chair we use has to go through a series of modifications."

The backs are re-enforced, and there are additional rivets and bars that are run through the chair's structure.

"Apparently, something went wrong," he said, laughing. "And I had to make sure there was another chair ready so they could finish the routine. But the funny thing was after the show, the guy whose chair broke came to me and asked if there was a way we could rig a chair that would break.

"Of course there was," Weaver said. "So, we rigged a few chairs to be used during certain shows throughout the tour. No one in the audience knows when it will happen."

If you go

What: "Stomp"

Where: Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South

When: Tuesday-Thursday, 7:30 p.m.; June 6 and 7, 8 p.m.; June 7, 4 p.m.; June 8, 2 and 7 p.m.

How much: $30-$47

Phone: 355-2787, 888-451-2787

Web: www.arttix.org


E-mail: scott@desnews.com